NYS Appellate Court Rules Against City Practice of Issuing Arrest Warrants for Children in Foster Care Who Temporarily Leave Their Placement

The Legal Aid Society hailed a decision rendered today in the New York State Appellate Division, First Department against the City’s practice of issuing arrest warrants for children in foster care.

For decades, the New York City Administration for Children's Services (ACS) would request arrest warrants from New York State Family Court for children in foster care who left their placement without permission despite the fact that this does not break any law. In 2015, ACS even admitted that the practice can have “negative unintended consequences,” but the agency refused to scale it back.

The Legal Aid Society filed a challenge to this practice in 2018 and the New York State Family Court’s authority to issue arrest warrants for the explicit purpose of returning youth to foster care.

“This long running and unlawful practice that criminalized our young clients and others in foster care is finally no more,” said Dawne Mitchell, Attorney-In-Charge of the Juvenile Rights Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “This decision recognizes that trauma inflicted on youth when the police are involved and an unnecessary arrest is made. ACS must devise a way to deal with these situations that does not involve handcuffs. We will closely monitor our cases to ensure that this practice has fully ended.”

“Today's decision ends a decades-old policy that criminalizes runaway foster children and alienates traumatized youth in foster care from their casework and clinical teams. The Court recognized that victimized children should not be treated as criminals,” said Israel T. Appel, Staff Attorney with the Juvenile Rights Practice at The Legal Aid Society.